It wasn’t an easy decision for David Edwards to return to the University of Wisconsin for his junior season in 2018.
He received a second-round grade from the NFL College Advisory Committee, but the former tight end still felt he needed to develop further after spending just two seasons as an offensive lineman.
This year presented an even more challenging choice. Edwards played through a shoulder injury for 10 games before sitting out the remainder of his junior season — and his play dropped off because of it.
“It was obviously pretty difficult,” Edwards said last month of his decision to enter the NFL Draft. “But after talking with my family and people I’m close with, it was great because they gave me a little bit of insight … just giving me facts on, hey, if you stay, here’s what could happen, if you go, here’s what could happen.”
While those second-round hopes were ultimately squashed, Edwards still fulfilled a dream Saturday when the Los Angeles Rams selected him with the 31st pick of the fifth round (169th overall).
He became the third former UW player picked in the fifth round after the New York Giants took inside linebacker Ryan Connelly 143rd overall and the Miami Dolphins grabbed outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel eight picks later.
Connelly and Van Ginkel overcame injuries of their own last year to earn a spot on the draft’s final day.
Despite playing through a core injury throughout last season, Connelly, a former walk-on, recorded a career-high 89 tackles in just 12 games.
“There were a couple times where I didn’t feel as explosive or necessarily as fast with top-end speed,” Connelly said. “I don’t think it really affected me in the box necessarily. Obviously, I probably didn’t have the same strength as I normally would. … But for the most part I feel like I was still able to have a successful year.”
The Butkus Award semifinalist underwent surgery in December and spent much of his pre-draft training rebuilding strength.
He still managed to post solid NFL Combine numbers in February. Connelly ran the 40-yard dash in 4.66 seconds, recorded a 34.5-inch vertical jump and finished the three-cone drill in 7.09 seconds.
Van Ginkel, who fought through a high-ankle sprain much of last season, posted better pre-draft times than perhaps any other draft-eligible Badger. He ranked in the top eight among linebackers at the NFL Combine in the vertical jump, broad jump, three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle before running the 40-yard dash in 4.56 seconds at UW’s Pro Day.
He suffered the injury against BYU in Week 3 and said he re-aggravated it against Penn State on Nov. 10.
“It lingered all year,” Van Ginkel said after UW’s Pro Day in March. “I didn’t feel 100 percent until probably the bowl game. I didn’t really feel 100 percent and confident on it, but as the season went along, I started to trust it more and just went from there.
“A lot of (NFL teams) knew I had a high-ankle sprain, so I get that question a lot. When were you healthy? When did you start feeling like yourself? You’ve just got to say the right answer and be honest with them.”
Van Ginkel will join UW teammate Michael Deiter in Miami after the Dolphins took the offensive lineman in the third round Friday night.
The selections of Deiter and Edwards gave the Badgers 20 drafted offensive linemen since 2000. That’s more than any program in the country, per UW.
The most unexpected development Saturday centered around a Badgers offensive lineman that wasn’t picked, however. Guard Beau Benzschawel, once projected as a borderline Day 2 pick, didn’t hear his name called. He received undrafted free agent offers from more than 20 teams before signing with the Detroit Lions, per a report from the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
Inside linebacker T.J. Edwards, a 2017 AP first-team All-American who led the Badgers with 113 tackles last season, also surprisingly went undrafted. He's expected to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Former UW fullback Alec Ingold agreed to an undrafted free agent deal with the Oakland Raiders following Saturday’s final round.
The Chicago Bears invited running back Chris James to their rookie minicamp, per agent Jeff Jankovich.
Safety D’Cota Dixon received invites to rookie minicamps from the Arizona Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers, according to a report by the Daytona Beach News-Journal.